This piece was inspired by a classmate of mine, Maya Mitchell. Last week, she released what I felt was a very necessary piece about our esteemed institution, Spelman College, and the elements that make it as special as it is. Now this piece was unlike any other piece I’ve ever read about Spelman, mainly because I’ve had intimate experiences with all of the components she highlighted. Whether it's the bad luck associated with walking under the alumnae arch or the search for a good white dress, every item on her list resonated with a part of my heart and probed me to debunk the most regurgitated theory about Spelman and the women that attend this great institution.
My position at Spelman now is something that I could not have even tried to predict for myself my senior year of high school when I began the tireless process of applying to college. I have never been afraid to admit the bumpy path I traveled to get to where I’m at now, but rarely do I ever admit the fact that I once led astray of HBCUs and the quality of the education they provide. I applied to over ten schools, including University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Vanderbilt, and University of Michigan, with only two of those schools being Historically Black; Howard University and Spelman College. But even in the process of applying to those two historically black institutions, my conviction that I could only attain an ivy league education at an ivy league stuck with me.
Accepted, waitlisted, and denied by some, I was convinced by a plethora of educators that to be taken seriously in the professional and intellectual world, my degree would have to be gleaned from a PWI (Predominately White Institution). But I chose Spelman, after much convincing from my mother, but also after following my gut feeling; a decision I'll stand by today, tomorrow, and next week, as my decision to attend Spelman was the best decision I have ever made in my life. However, (again, not afraid to admit this) I knew little to nothing about Spelman. The household of my good friend Evan Gayles, a rising sophomore at Howard University, is one of the first places where I heard the name of Spelman College. Her mother was a Spelman woman and just from leisure reflection, I remember that it was a fact she held on to with pride. The reason for her pride, little did I know, I would soon experience myself.
After determining that Spelman would be the institution that I would further my education at, I took it upon myself to reverse my ignorance of my new home. I became privy to the culture, history, and dynamic of the school. I’d never been in an all girls environment before, so I wanted to know what was so enriching about it. I was interested in seeing their curriculum, what internship opportunities they had to offer, and what businesses and corporations heavily recruited at Spelman. I was interested in hearing about the experiences of other Spelman women; whether they were class of 1988 or 2002, I was interested in knowing what the Spelman sisterhood was all about. And what I found was rich. The successes of my many predecessors showed tangible proof as to why Spelman reigns as the #1 HBCU in the country, and why this reign will be perpetual.
But what I ran into the most during my transition from a high school senior to a college freshman was the futile idea and opinion that all Spelman women were ‘bougie’. Even typing the words makes me feel as childish as those that preach it, but It’s a line I heard repeatedly during my first year of school from the mouths of both peers in Atlanta (those that attended other institutions and my brother institution, Morehouse College) and peers at home. Their stories and allegations painted the picture of a campus teeming with red bottom wearing trust fund babies who had an 8 o’clock campus curfew. They never had time for anything else but their work, and their curriculum bred them to be ruthless feminists who hydrate with men’s tears. They were cold-blooded, and an obvious force to not be reckoned with.
And I wasn’t necessarily sure if this was supposed to deter me, but I wanted ins. (I’m joking.)
But regardless of whatever preconceived notions those around me concocted about Spelman through either interaction or he-say/she-say, my own experiences can deem them all as invalid. Because of Spelman I know the importance of building a positive brand, and the importance of sustaining my education; I know how to always put myself in a position to learn something new no matter what the circumstance is. I know that I have a position in this world and that my talents can be used to change this world, otherwise I’m being selfish. I know hard work, and I know defeat in the face of hard work. But I also know 48-72 hours without sleep, persistence, and success. I know to never settle and I know that if I don’t get the credit that I’m owed, I take it because I deserve it. By attending an institution that has taken on the responsibility of ensuring the quantifiable success of women who look like me and only me, I now know how to get the attention of a world who tries so hard to deny both my existence and my contributions. And most importantly I know that I'm blessed to be apart of something as great as that. Besides, I truly don’t know another school that can teach me both the fundamentals of intersectionality while also being able to teach me how to love myself; and have both concepts integrated into a mandatory course.
The change that my institution has brought about in me in one year is change I thought I would never endure. I think any rising Spelman woman has a story about their life before Spelman and what exactly Spelman saved them from, and Spelman saved me from myself. It's a blessing to have a whirlwind of talent, but it's a curse to not know how to exercise that talent to the best of your ability and my institution taught me how. By not only reaffirming the presence of my talent, but by putting me in settings where my talent could thrive, I'm forever grateful for Spelman College and the light that she sees in all of her students well before we see it ourselves.So no, we’re not bougie. What they really meant to say was educated and aware; alert and allergic to nonsense; unbothered and hungry- characteristics usually frowned upon by society when showcased by black women. But we don't care, we do it anyway. I’m Spelman bred, and everything about me says so.